SWOP Program Guidelines

Home » SWOP Program Guidelines

SWOP Program Guidelines                                                                             revised 12/13

Revisions of the 2011 guidelines developed by the SWOP Program Development Committee (chair: Pastor Foster, members: Barb Dobson, Bernadette Suomi, Jonathon Suomi)
Download PDF

Program goals – equip, engage, and empower the youth of our communities. The program aims to equip youth with life skills, engage them in their communities, and empower them for the future.


  • Foster respect for self and others
  • Teach responsibility for one’s own actions in the context of the common good
  • Build relationships and relationship skills with group, leaders, senior citizens, and community leaders
  • Develop a positive work and money management ethic (share, save, spend)


Program components

  • Life skills presentation and discussionSWOP 002B
  • Community service-oriented work
  • Written and group reflection
  • Accountability to rules and expectations
  • Money management through weekly stipends, savings program, & skill teaching
  • A culture of encouragement, enthusiasm, and energy


Typical schedule

  1. 8:30a.m. – life skills hour (led by site director, site host, or local guest speaker)SWOP 004B
  2. 9:30a.m. – break for snack & prepare for work day
  3. 9:45a.m. – leave for work
  4. 11:45 a.m. – finish work, clean-up and return to home site
  5. 12:00 – 12:30p.m. – journaling and group reflection on the day


Joint Guest speaker mornings

  1. 8:30 – transition time (for prep, travel time and review)
  2. 9:00 – guest speaker
  3. 10:00 – snack time and leave for work
  4. 11:45 – finish work, clean-up and return to home site
  5. 12:00 – 12:30p.m. – journaling and group reflection for the day


On pay day (Tuesdays, for the prior week), the group goes to the community bank to deposit their pay checks in their savings accounts.

Life Skills

The whole of SWOP is about life skill development. Every specific skill that is presented gets reinforced through the work and interactions of the day. Guest speakers from the community may relate to the specific life skill being presented each week, or their topic may simply expand community awareness. Learning to introduce oneself to guest speakers, as well as listen to, and interact with them is itself a primary area of life skill development in SWOP.2013 (208)

Sequence of life skill topics, by week

How to:

  1. Introduce yourself & follow instructions
  2. Talk with others and to conduct and interview
  3. Show respect and sensitivity to others

Mid-program break

  1. Accept criticism and consequences, apologies and compliments
  2. Accept no for an answer and disagree appropriately
  3. Review and wrap-up life skills learned


Writing component
Writing is a basic and daily life skills practice in SWOP. Workers are given a journal on the first day, and required to write in their journal at the end of each work day. In addition to this daily writing, they develop writing skills through

  • writing/self-expression exercises, such as writing an autobiography and doing a sentence completion exercise helping them share who they are with others
  • weekly essays (as an alternate pre-requisite to being paid each week, along with the other two options of a signed worship bulletin or signed community service)
  • a SWOP writing workshop following their traditional skills day, with some of the writing submitted to local papers – writing about others for others
  • a summary of their overall SWOP experience – with some given the opportunity to write and give speeches at the SWOP Awards and Appreciation Banquet


SWOP Work Overview

SWOP is a summer job for 11 to 14 year olds, and their daily work constitutes the single greatest time component each day. Through their daily jobs, they develop a positive work ethic, practice the life skills they are learning, and discover the relationship between work and community well-being. The weekly paycheck they receive reinforces their participation as a job.

Types of Work

SWOP work experience is varied, with these components in balance with one another.

1. Community Service and Improvement
Purpose: teach respect for the common good through community service; also develop a positive work ethic, and learning to work as a team

e.g.-parks clean-up, care and improvement of public property (weeding, picking up litter, trimming and cleaning around cemetery grave markers, outdoor painting projects, work on community garden

2. Service to and with Senior Citizens
Purpose: develop the value of inter-generational relationships; learn to exercise respect and sensitivity to others

e.g. – assist with activities at nursing homes or assisted living centers, visiting with seniors, interviewing seniors (with follow-up project), yard work for seniors, serving at the AEOA Senior Carnival

3. Non-profit agency service
Purpose: learn and appreciate the role of non-profit organizations, become aware of social needs, develop sensitivity to others, learn some office skills, and participate in community support

e.g. office and practical work for non-profit agencies such as Goodwill, Salvation Army, AEOA, Food Shelf, Elder Services, Range Center, United Way, town public library, Habitat for Humanity

Learning skills from the community

Three days of the six weeks are devoted to learning skills from members of the community – one day for job shadowing, and two days for exploring traditional skills (one day learning and interviewing, one day with writing workshop)

1. Job shadowing
Purpose: introduction to the workplace, skill enhancement, work ethic, appreciation of local businesses
Each worker will have one day when their work morning to do job shadowing at a local business.

(e.g. – restaurant, library, t-shirt design, hair salon, newspapers, veterinary practice, auto repair, canoe outfitter, etc.)

2. Exploring traditional skills
Purpose: learn and appreciate local cultural heritage, develop communication skills, intergenerational respect and relationship building
Workers will spend one morning interviewing and learning from someone who can share a traditional skill

(e.g. quilting, weaving, spinning, canning, potica or pasty making, knitting, farming, etc.) & one morning writing about it

SWOP Youth Development

The primary purpose of SWOP is its impact on the youth who participate. Although it is impossible to measure this impact (especially without long term contact), throughout the program we build in opportunities for the youth, the staff, and their peers to set goals for their own development, affirm their contributions and assets, and evaluate their progress.2013 (84)

To do this, SWOP incorporates the following tools:
Self reflection, goal setting, and evaluation

  1. Initial essay includes their goals for what they want to learn in SWOP.
  2. Daily journaling is an opportunity for reflection.
  3. They write and share their own mid-point and final progress report

Group affirmation and feedback

  1. Daily affirmation exercises are included in group time.
  2. During life skills and group time, youth learn how to offer positive feedback.

Staff awareness, encouragement, and evaluation

  1. Make an effort to get to know each youth on an ongoing basis.
  2. Offer verbal encouragement on a regular basis.
  3. Write and share mid-point and final progress reports with each youth. Suggested sequence: youth write their own progress report, then talk about it, and staff person then writes additional comments.

Writing their own resume’

  1. Youth receive instructions and a template to write their own resume;.
  2. Staff or other leaders take photo of each youth.
  3. Staff/other leader type up resume’s and send or present copy with photo to each youth at the end of the program, keeping a copy for our records.